Category Archives: development

Still dreaming big dreams for Birmingham in 2021

UPDATE: Birmingham was awarded the 2021 World Games on January 22, 2015.

rickwoodjune2014“You know, baseball isn’t an Olympic sport for 2020.”

I smirked as I said this during a chance encounter with David Brewer, executive director of the Friends of Rickwood Field, as we stood looking out at home plate in America’s oldest ballpark late Monday morning.

He laughed and said, “You know, you’re right,” as he returned to the never ending list of to-dos associated with his job, leaving me to think. I often find myself there in the historic structure on the city’s west side sitting in the general admission seats (or the first base dugout) in order to escape and think. This time, I tried to calm my mind to tackle some brainstorming but ended up dreaming big dreams. (It’s a bad habit of mine.) I thought of what it would be like to sit in the stands at Rickwood Field and Regions Field surrounded by others from around the world in 2021. It would take the International Baseball Federation successfully campaigning the International World Games Association to be added as a sport or a request of the city’s organizing committee, but there’s a chance…

IWGA logoNo, I’m not insane. Word of the city’s intention to submit a bid to host the 11th World Games in 2021 spread like wildfire on Sunday morning. People were still taking a breath from hearing of its bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention on Friday. These are noticeably bold moves in the midst of evidence of the city’s long-sought renaissance finally taking shape. I brought up during a quick exchange via Twitter that the potential resulting benefits and impact sound similar to those previously floated by a certain former mayor. The response: “Same thinking, but more realistic.” Hindsight is always 20/20 though and I’ve got a feeling historians will look at both situations as examples of the city taking a risk.

That said, this current proposal is a little easier to swallow for folks and easier to celebrate if successful (especially since it would be during Birmingham’s 150th birthday, but I digress). While the World Games started as a way to focus more on the athletes and less on keeping score among nations, they have come to be as significant in meaning to the host city as a successful Olympic bid without nearly the same level of expense.

Why? Here it is, courtesy of the bid packet:

In fact, the Rules of The World Games stipulate that the games must be staged at existing venues, or at venues that have been planned and built regardless of the bid for TWG.

This means that while the multi-purpose facility (a.k.a. the Dome) is probably going to happen, it’s not affecting this bid one way or the other. That can be also read as it doesn’t necessarily mean facilities can’t be renovated or modernized in order to accommodate events. This suddenly makes things like seeing a City Council agenda item for a feasibility study of Legion Field earlier this year more understandable (especially when coupled with the mayor’s comments during this year’s State of the City address).

This is a city that needs an excuse to light a fire under itself to get something accomplished. It also needs reassurances from outsiders. This would seem to accomplish both while, as said elsewhere previously, leaving the city in a better place if the bid proves unsuccessful.

The DNC bid was due last Friday, June 6 (and some have already written about its potential for success, including this piece on June 9 by Cliff Sims at Yellowhammer News and this one published on June 8 by Chuck Dean of Media Group). The World Games bid is due on July 31. Once it’s arrived in Colorado, the hard part begins. We have to keep dreaming big dreams and acting on them.

After watching this recap video from the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia (or photos like this one from its closing ceremonies), I’m thinking it shouldn’t be too hard to do.

BTW – it should be noted that American football was chosen as one of the invitational sports for the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Just saying…

André Natta is the stationmaster for

Why is the downtown Publix really a game-changer?

newPublixbldgThe term “game-changer” has been batted about metro Birmingham a lot in recent days as news of a planned mixed-use development anchored by a Publix grocery store on the city’s Southside spread like wild fire. For those who haven’t heard yet, an article in the May 18 edition of The Birmingham News revealed the Lakeland, FL-based grocer as the main tenant of a $30 million development proposed to sit on the northwest corner of 20th Street and 3rd Avenue South.

Now, I’ve lived in the greater downtown area since 2004, and I’ve always had as few as four and as many as six major options available to choose from within 2 miles, but I had to drive to them. When people ask me “Where and how do you get groceries?” I admit I’ve long ago started replying by asking them, “Well, where and how do you get yours?” I get a stunned look, but most times they seem to get what I’m saying. That said, it’s not an option readily or easily available to a significant number of our city’s residents.

This leads to my first reason why it’s a game-changer:

It’s more about WALKING now than DRIVING. Yes, there’s a parking deck that will sit between the ground floor space and the 36 “loft-style” apartments planned for the top the building. The vehicles using these spaces though will be off-street and out of sight. The idea of needing to circle forever to find a spot or the installation of a surface parking lot to handle capacity doesn’t even come up in conversation – and that’s a great thing. It suggests developers realize there will be enough people within walking distance to support its operation. It takes away reliance on an automobile to make a development like this one work.

It means it should be easier to get other national and regional retailers to consider locating a business downtown. It also makes it easier to get those same retailers to start looking at options in neighborhoods throughout the city. It could potentially make the issue of placing parking immediately adjacent to their business less of a sticking point. Dare it be suggested it could also be the first step toward a re-write of the city’s parking regulations and a rethinking of its minimum requirements?

It’s downtown. Actually, this may be an even bigger issue for me and one I’m excited about watching evolve. The proposed building is sitting along 20th Street South. When I first moved here nearly ten years ago, I referred to that area as being downtown while having a conversation with a native; I was chastised immediately because “it was not downtown, it was Southside. Downtown starts on the other side of the tracks.”

It was weird, as most New Yorkers refer to pretty much all of Manhattan as “downtown” no matter which of the other four boroughs you live. I’d also moved here after working for an agency charged with the revitalization of “greater Downtown” Savannah, not just its famous historic district. As a result, I’ve long considered the areas surrounding the city center part of greater downtown Birmingham. It makes sense especially when you get a chance to see just how small the expanded area still is in relation to the rest of the city.

The announcement of this grocery store lends itself to a new approach involving population growth in the urban core focused on eventually seeing people choosing to live in the single-family home dense portions of Druid Hills, Fountain Heights, and Norwood (in addition to others like Titusville, Smithfield, and College Hills) after spending a couple of years living in an apartment located nearby in the city center. Every major news outlet in the city referred to the project’s location area as downtown, suggesting the shift in perspective (one long championed by REV Birmingham and its predecessors) is finally starting to happen. The change in perspective also means a realization about the choices available to someone thinking about their next move.

The changes that come as a result of this and other projects will be quick. The changes at face value will be good for the city. The question right now as we get ready to start watching this happen is “Are we ready for what we’ve been asking for all of these years?”

André Natta is the stationmaster for

More numbers (and theories) to study with the Haney deal

Social_Security_Building_(1974)There’s been a great deal of conversation about the proposed lease agreement that would see the City of Birmingham occupy more than 263,000 square feet of space in the former Social Security building, particularly about the PAC transfers John Archibald has written about in several widely-read pieces for

Campaign finance reform is a major issue, and one worthy of scrutiny at any time – especially during an election year. I’m looking forward to seeing what else John is able to uncover in the coming days and weeks and to the public responses to the allegations. I’d like to look at something else today though – the deal itself and a crazy theory as to why it’s being floated in the first place.

Let’s run the deal’s numbers too

The proposed deal’s lease rate is what’s most significant. John references $139 million over 30 years. His fellow journalist Joseph Bryant, as late as the morning of February 17, was referencing $127 million as the figure. It makes a big difference. John’s figure works out to $17.62 per square foot per year for the life of the lease while Joseph’s comes to $16.10/sq. ft. The current average rate for office rentals in Birmingham, AL proper according to LoopNet is $16.72/sq. ft., making Joseph’s figure look very favorable for the city (even if the length of the lease is questionable – more on that shortly).

John’s figure looks favorable depending on how you believe the deal would be structured normally. If Haney used $16.11, the average for the metro area, as a baseline with an annual 3% increase applied, it’s the equivalent of what the year 4 rate would be – again, something quite favorable to the city. If Haney decided to look at the rate as escalating every five (5) years, it’s the equivalent of the year 20 rate, one much more favorable to him.

Looking at those numbers, concerned citizens’ comments, and the dollar amounts being floated around via pro-forma comparisons, the biggest issue monetarily is the lease’s length. It seems as though there’s a plan (or at least a perceived, albeit limited) desire to get this done as soon as possible, but you could see what Boston’s newly elected mayor (and one Fast Company says we need to watch) Martin Walsh does with his City Hall and hold it up as an example. Here’s the PDF of the proposal candidate Walsh floated during his campaign.

The point? The lease shouldn’t be 30 years long (and the city should be looking elsewhere for viable options); it should be long enough for the city to identify and complete its long-term plans. We can tackle non-traditional options in a future piece, but needless to say the deal should continue to be called into question for several reasons.

Why are we doing this again?

My somewhat twisted observations lead to a discussion about the other issue that hasn’t been getting attention – why is the city looking to consolidate police, fire, and the municipal court into one space in the first place? The answer becomes more apparent when you look at the fair market values applied to the city-owned properties in question.

While private citizens pay property taxes on their residences and commercial properties to the city, Birmingham doesn’t pay them to itself, so it gets a chance to see a double benefit from vacating these structures if they put the properties up for sale. First, there’s the instant benefit from selling them off (leading to an instant infusion of cash into a city that’s seen several years of tenuous budget negotiations). There’s also the ability to collect property taxes in addition to sales taxes and business taxes depending on how the land’s used.

How much could they bring in for the properties in question? If you add up the fair market values of all the city owned land occupied and/or adjoining the existing facilities, it would be questionable if Birmingham let go of it all for less than $9.5 million. Note this is based on the fair market value assigned by the county tax assessor; the actual amount received could be much higher depending on demand. Any new structures or redevelopment of the property would be sure to increase that value, only adding to the potential long-term revenue.

Downtown Birmingham is a hot market, with several developments planned for the area surrounding the most valuable of the three sets of land – police headquarters. The projects scheduled for completion around it stand to completely remake downtown – while adding significant value to the Fountain Heights neighborhood (yes, that’s Fountain Heights):

We could also talk about its proximity to Innovation Depot, Railroad Park, Regions Field, and all of the residential developments announced and unannounced for that portions of Southside. Do we finally see a new grocery store for downtown (one its residents will be willing to support)? Is additional residential development possible (resulting in a different amount of taxes collected)? Might we see another skyscraper climb toward the sky downtown? Money and politics are definitely front and center, but we should look at all the ways they’re involved in this instance.

André Natta is the stationmaster for

Adding fuel to Birmingham's revival

Lyric marquee litFriday night in Birmingham’s theater district was the kind of event more people will claim to have attended than were actually there in the coming years. Considering there were at least 1,000 people gathered in Birmingham’s theater district to watch the Lyric’s marquee rejoin the central business district’s landscape, it may be hard to tell those actual attendees from those who weren’t.

One statement continues to play at the end of my internal conversations about the first installment of REVIVE Birmingham, REV Birmingham’s street life project, one probably cheesy but true,“The marquee being lit for the first time will make it real.”

The five-week series is an opportunity for passersby to see what this city is becoming, filling currently vacant portions of a commercial district with retail concepts and hope. Potential investors may not get to check it out in person (though they probably should), but all the pictures shared online speak loudly and could be the necessary nudge to get those on the fence interested in becoming a part of the transformation that is Alabama’s Magic City these last three years.

Friday’s event was the end to the first of five weeks of deep urban exploration for Birmingham’s citizens – a gut check. They were asked to imagine what their city is becoming. Notice I didn’t use the word “could.” REVIVE has the biggest potential to inspire by allowing people to see it’s already happening and it can be built upon.

Third Avenue North was taken over with custom benches,  graphics filling window spaces, freshly made donuts, and t-shirts available for sale. Folks could even choose to catch a ride on a pedicab or write on a blackboard wall similar to the “Before I Die” project that’s lived across from Regions Field for the last month.

As the crowds move through the city throughout the month, a question will begin to creep into participant’s minds – “Well, what’s next?” I’d argue that what’s next is them. Some will have followed the tour to its next destination, but some will need to act on the urge to participate and move based on what they’ve seen. This time next year a return trip to the Theater District will most likely include a chance to see who moved into the Whitmire Lofts; continuing work on both the Lyric in addition to the former Parisian/Booker T. Washington building at 3rd Ave. N. and 18th Street as it’s converted into residences with retail on the ground floor; and a buzz of activity in the form of construction at the Pizitz building and the new transit hub.

This progress will be visible and tangible. Hopefully it will be a common occurrence throughout the city. Whether it does or not though depends on its citizens even more than it depends on REV.

Most of the folks I’ve seen so far while passing through would be considered the usual suspects – they believe in what’s currently happening in the city and have no problem jumping on board with the latest proposal or project. You need these people, or else there’s no one to inspire those who don’t necessarily believe yet (think of it as a sort of “preaching to the choir” at church). That said, Friday’s was the first tangible step in convincing some still on the fence about the city’s future outside of the city center. They were able to see how it played with what’s already there – and how it could make it better. It allowed them to see the building blocks and provide a frame of reference in a heavily traveled section of the region – one that will see additional transformation and construction cranes in the next 12-18 months. They needed to see the choir excited and catch their infectious belief in the future of the city.


I’m looking forward to seeing how neighborhoods like East Lake (this week), Five Points South, Woodlawn, and Ensley respond when REVIVE stops there in the coming weeks – particularly in how they choose to engage with the businesses and the activities presented. The residents need to be active participants, sharing what they like (or don’t like) with REV. They’ve got cards out seeking input and it’s not like you can’t reach out to them online or in person.

The city is at a tipping point – one where it can’t just point to an organization or a big box that exists elsewhere but to itself (a.k.a. its citizens) for the needed energy and action to continue. It’s not to say it’s not possible for an organization or event to spark a change, but it takes fuel to keep it going. I’m optimistic that the passion already on display will go a long way, but the furnace must continued to be stoked and more must jump hop on board. This is one time where waiting for someone else to make a move simply delays seeing our future.

Harbert Realty & the Two North Twentieth Sign – A Brief History

Stationmaster’s note: The following excerpts are from Design Review Committee columns originally published on the Magic City Post in 2012. We’ve re-posted them here to provide context for Rebecca’s July 25 Design Review Committee recap as it pertains to Harbert Realty and the sign atop Two North Twentieth. Clicking on the dates will take you to the original piece.

Design Review Committee Meeting: September 26

“The Harbert Realty representative was to speak on the status of the rooftop sign on Two North 20th. The committee was given a “heads up” on the project by a current tenant (and committee member). Apparently, the sign is in need of expensive repairs. Until the time comes to decide on the status of the sign, Harbert would like to wrap it in vinyl. The committee will make decisions and recommendations on this project once it is presented by Harbert.”

Design Review Committee Meeting: October 10

“Keith Rouss of Harbert Realty brought the company’s intentions for the existing sign at the top of Two North Twentieth to the committee. Due to the existing economic climate, it is no longer cost effective or affordable to continue maintenance on the 40-year-old sign. Harbert intends to wrap the sign in a pre-printed vinyl that would contain advertising. The committee expressed concerns that the sign would become “the world’s largest billboard” and no longer blend with the city’s skyline. The plans presented to the committee included a national advertising campaign for Pepsi, proposed by a New York advertising firm and local bottler Buffalo Rock. In addition to the billboard concerns, the committee took issue with the nature and look of the signage. Acknowledging the interim nature of this plan (the advertising contract would be for 18 months), the committee requested Harbert find another way to meet both the advertising and the design concerns. Despite Harbert’s concerns that the advertising plan would fall through, the committee tabled the discussion to the next meeting.”

Design Review Committee Meeting: October 24

“Keith Rouss of Harbert Realty returned to the committee with what he hoped would be a clearer iteration of the company’s intentions for the existing sign at the top of Two North Twentieth. With Rouss was Jimmy Lee from Buffalo Rock Company, the potential advertiser for the wrap of the electronic sign atop the building. The committee discussion revolved around the plans to wrap the sign being contradictory to current design standards. Rouss again argued that the uniqueness of the sign would preclude setting any precedents, but the committee still voted to deny the request.

The committee acknowledged the corporate citizenship of both Harbert Realty and Buffalo Rock Company, but despite its status as a “legal, non-conforming sign” the wrap still constitutes a billboard rather than something more akin to an artwork. In an interesting twist, a potential protestor to the wrapped sign idea attended the meeting. His concern was that this would open the opportunity to put billboard-style signs on every building in the city’s skyline, thus ruining it. Since the committee denied the request, the protestor had no need to provide comment.”

Design Review Committee Meeting: November 14

“Tab Bisignani of Harbert Realty returned to the committee with yet another iteration of the company’s intentions for the existing sign at the top of Two North Twentieth. The new proposal was of a blue sky with the word “Pepsi” formed by clouds and the Pepsi logo. Once again the committee denied the request with the explanation that the wrap still constitutes a billboard rather than something more akin to a work of art. It is interesting that most people who attended the committee meetings for each of the Harbert presentations seem to understand that the committee is asking for art and an acknowledgement of the history of Buffalo Rock and the city. Yet Harbert continues to present advertising (and continues to get denied). A simple solution thrown around after one of the meetings included running an art contest that includes a sponsorship logo – two birds with one stone, so to speak. The most uncomfortable thing about this recent presentation was the attitude of the Harbert representative. While his, and Harbert’s, frustration is understandable, Harbert has the opportunity to communicate more with the city and the committee to make this something meaningful to everyone – since it is everyone in the region who will see it at one time or another. However, whether or not he meant it this way, Bisignani’s implied threats to go to the city or another higher authority over this issue and throwing around the “weight” of the money Harbert provides to the city’s tax base are not displaying a positive image of Harbert’s corporate citizenship. At this meeting, Bisignani acted more like a corporate bully.”

More things to think about regardless of the I-20/59 conclusion

parkingunder2059Yesterday I decided to point to a specific city that’s actually tackled an inner-city interstate replacement and use it to ask a lot of questions about our situation here in Birmingham. I think talking through the answers will go a long way towards how ALDOT chooses to respond to critics of their current alternative to their original proposal to replace the existing decking as it exists.

Now, I drive by the BJCC and Uptown every day. As a result, I’ve had several other questions on my mind in recent weeks as it relates to I-20/59 and ALDOT’s proposed changes. I’m sure someone’s going to get to these at some point, but I wanted to go ahead and get these thoughts out there too just to see what bubbles up from readers:

Where do the cars currently parking under the interstate go? A lot of cars will be looking for new places to park as a result of the currently proposed configuration and the closing of 9th Ave. N. A survey of spaces located between 18th and 23rd Sts. N. underneath the interstate and along 9th suggests at least 625 (and as many as 660) vehicles will need to figure out where to go (special thanks to the RPCGB for helping to gather this info so quickly) once this project begins to move forward. This, provided new development continues to occur adjacent to the BJCC begs a follow-up question:

Where do we build a new parking lot (or do we even need to build a new one)? Before we jump on the “we need to build a new deck” bandwagon, it may help to pause and look at the bigger picture. This may be the spark needed to implement an expanded shuttle service downtown. It may even encourage folks to use the existing service provided by the BJCTA. The idea of enabling commuters and visitors to park in one of the lots located along Morris Avenue or any of the existing parking decks maintained by the Birmingham Parking Authority is intriguing. On-street parking options are plentiful, but not sufficient for those visiting the museum or the BJCC and unable to check their meters continuously throughout the day. A shuttle only works is if you can get folks out of their current need of having to park as close to their location as possible. It’s something possible to accomplish if you made it a more logical (read – cheaper) option to park in the decks than on the streets (the way many cities approach managing their parking situations to free up on-street spaces for shorter visits to stores).

Is it time for directional signage citywide? We seem to like tackling the creation of gateways for the city; the recent tree planting at the 31st St. N. exit suggests the corporate community is willing to help the city put its best foot forward as we see increased visitors not just this year, but arguably over the next five as we continue to commemorate milestones in the civil rights movement. Wayfinding, however, has been an issue the powers that be have been discussing for a long time. The Medical District is the most recent section of Birmingham to attempt to tackle it. Individual sites and attractions have tried as well as they tire of waiting for a comprehensive solution to surface.

If we accept that the ramps will go away regardless of what happens, we can also admit it will provide an excuse for visitors and locals alike to explore not just greater downtown, but the entire city (if only because it’s now a possible “accident” waiting to happen). It’s a chance to make sure all are aware of the options and experiences available to them. It could also make it easier for folks to navigate an already insane grid system.

Speaking of the grid…

Is it time to wave “bye-bye!” to the one-way streets downtown? One of the reasons often given for the existence of one-way streets in Birmingham’s city center is because of the ability to get into and out of downtown as quickly as possible via the surrounding highways. The elimination of the ramps providing access to these thoroughfares could be the impetus to finally carry out a major recommendation of the 2004 City Center Master Plan – converting many one-way streets back to two-way. It’d probably be most helpful along those streets most affected by the proposed interstate changes – thoroughfares like 5th Ave. N., 18th St., 22nd St. and Richard Arrington, Jr. Blvd. As many hope to see more restaurants and stores move downtown to serve the estimated 80,000+ that venture in every day, it sure would be nice to make them more visible from multiple directions. It could even encourage more foot traffic – thanks to increased “eyes on the road” for peace of mind.

These are questions not necessarily considered when looking at the situation on its surface, but they will be ones where answers are more critical to the period of during and after construction of whatever happens. Ironically, the very thing the proposal aims to get to pass through the city quickly – the car – is the one thing that will lead to significant decisions to be made about how downtown will continue to adapt and change as it enjoys a national and international close-up.

Fort Washington Way – a look at how one city actually handled their Interstate issue

bridgeoveri71Yes, there’s recently been a significant amount of focus on proposed plans for I-20/59. Diehards have been aware of the topic since last summer when the initial plan was presented at a public hearing only to be sent back (at the request of city and county officials – but more on that later). While much of the recent conversation has looked at cities currently going through similar effort, I thought it’d make some sense to look at one example where the battle’s been fought and the resolution is still a work in progress. Enter a rebuilt Fort Washington Way (FWW) in Cincinnati, Ohio – a creative approach to handling the passage of I-71 and U.S. 50 through the city adjacent to the waterfront.

I’ve had the opportunity to drive FWW through Cincinnati often over the last 10 years. My most recent chance was late last month on the way back from a trip to upstate New York for a wedding. I’d watched its development play out online via Planetizen (an insane resource for planning and urban issues geeks) – though the older archives aren’t accessible anymore. Luckily, the folks at Urban Cincy did an incredible four-part series (1, 2, 3, 4) three years ago chronicling some of the foresight in this compromised solution up north. does an excellent job providing historical context for both the original FWW and the one used by area commuters today. I’d always wanted a photo of how they treated the narrower roadways over the road, as pictured above, meaning it was time to make a longer pit stop.

Getting better acquainted with the project has me wondering if we’re leaving out a few questions as we continue to talk about it. I’ll warn you I’m basing my thoughts and observations on the idea of sinking the interstate. The same questions apply if the road is shifted, albeit with a much broader range of results available. I’ll also point out the nonexistence of sexy, immediate solutions – as proven via this story about parking filed in 2009 – but it’s something to remember regardless of what happens.

Is it possible to complete the project in phases? The redevelopment of FWW in Cincinnati was part of a much broader redevelopment plan for the city’s waterfront. The same opportunity exists with the sinking proposal as it could allow for expansion of both the BJCC and the Birmingham Museum of Art either immediately adjacent to their current locations or close by. Our transit center is already destined for the southern edge of the city’s central business district, but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t be thinking about future needs as we continue a public conversation about it. The rebuilt road would simply be the first phase, with the access roads still possible along either side enabling a civic boulevard the likes of which we still need psychologically here in Birmingham. The current phase underway in Cincinnati includes a wide-ranging engagement of the public, making sure their ideas are considered and heard as officials determine exactly what goes on top of the roadway. I’m not as familiar with the situation surrounding air rights over I-20/59 (FWW is actually both I-71 and U.S. 50, something that enabled Cincinnati to maintain their air rights), so there’s still a question in my mind about what’s currently possible and what can be persuaded into being. It’s also important to point out that the city of Cincinnati was – and still is – considered the lead agency on the project.

Have we publicly discussed how the city may be able to “fill the gap” cost-wise? We know the alternatives will cost more money. We know there are a vast majority of people who want to see the alternatives seriously considered. We haven’t publicly floated any ideas about how to “fill the gap” between the cost ALDOT is willing to cover and the actual cost of any alternative built – at least not recently.

The additional license fees and taxes proposed and implemented by the Langford administration are still being collected. Maybe they can be used as a funding source? Is there a way to expand the tax increment financing (TIF) district already in place downtown, enabling some of the increased monies potentially available from recapitalization to go towards an alternative proposal’s construction? Maybe we look to the parking authority as a funding source (though that’s the subject for another piece – and a whole new cans of worms)? If we find out we can do whatever we want on the lids covering the sunken roadway, could we attempt to treat it as another Railroad Park – could we raise the money to fill the gap? A possible last minute issue in Cincinnati in 2000 resulted in demonstrating just what the business community and the city would be willing to contribute if it really wants to see this type of development occur, with funding sources more easily identifiable later on as residential development moved forward.

Do we know the whole story or just the most recent chapter? Something of significance is remembering the original proposal from ALDOT. When they held their first public hearing last July (the one that allows them to correctly claim four such meetings in the process), their plan consisted of shutting down traffic similar to what they’ve been doing for the stretch of road between Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and the I-459 interchange and simply replacing the decking. The reason we’re looking at the current unpopular plan is because both the city (with representatives from the mayor’s office in attendance at the public hearing after the request was made earlier that day) and the county asked for ALDOT to come up with something else – in part because there were many upset with the idea of simply repairing and retaining the status quo. Yes, existing proposals for sinking the road already existed, but for various reasons, they weren’t talked about as much as they needed to be at that time. We’re making up for lost time now, but we need to be sure we know everything, including recognizing the neighborhoods originally destroyed and affected by its initial construction. The recent debacle meeting at ALDOT headquarters with the city makes many of us wary and unsure – and with great reason…

As we move forward, it may help to look for answers to these questions and others. It could be the difference between getting what we want and getting what we need. After all, there’s no better way to show how much you believe in the importance of the project than by caring enough to ask the right questions.